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Medical Marijuana Regulation To Be Reviewed By San Diego City Council

A draft ordinance to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries in San Diego is slated to go before the City Council in February, according to Interim Mayor Todd Gloria.

Public vetting of the proposed restrictions was recently completed, according to Gloria.

"Essentially, what I think it is is a reasonable balance between the communities and the need for safe access," Gloria said Thursday at his weekly media briefing. "This will result in a handful of collectives in the community that are operating under very strict guidelines that they don't currently necessarily have to follow."

Medical marijuana has been argued for years in San Diego, but operating dispensaries within city limits remains illegal 17 years after Californians passed the Compassionate Use Act.

The City Council passed regulations in 2011 that allowed dispensaries to open legally, but medical marijuana advocates considered them too restrictive and gathered enough signatures to get the ordinance rescinded.

The result, however, was that storefront pot shops were illegal once again.

Numerous dispensaries were shut down by police and code enforcement officers from that point until former Mayor Bob Filner took office last December. Filner, who would last less than nine months in the job, ordered city employees to refrain from enforcing the regulations until his administration could develop a new law.

In January of this year, however, the City Council ordered Filner and City Attorney Jan Goldsmith to resume reinforcement. Three months later, the council members called for Goldsmith to come up with new regulations similar to what they passed in 2011, rejecting more lenient provisions proposed by Filner.

In September -- about two weeks after Filner stepped down amid a sexual harassment scandal -- Gloria said he ordered authorities to resume enforcement of current city laws and said the proposed new regulations would undergo public scrutiny.

He said the city has conducted around 20 enforcement actions since then.

The interim mayor said the lack of regulations is as much an issue for operators of collectives as it is for residents.

"These folks don't have a certainty -- they don't know where they can operate legally," Gloria said. "What we're trying to do is give them clear rules of the road, that if they operate within them, we as a city will allow that to happen, and if they don't, we'll act aggressively to shut them down."

The draft ordinance that was presented to various community groups would allow dispensaries to operate legally for five years under a conditional use permit.

A 100-foot buffer would be required between dispensaries and residential zones. It also forbids pot shops within 1,000 of public parks, playgrounds, child care centers, schools, churches, municipal libraries, residential care facilities and other pot shops.

The proposal also calls for indoor and outdoor lighting, security measures and places restrictions on signs.

Hours would be limited from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week. Vending machines that dispense marijuana would not be allowed.


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